Black Panther has conviction overturned - but only after 41 years in solitary confinement

Terminally ill ‘Angola 3’ inmate Herman Wallace claims he was framed for murder

Campaigners against one of the great injustices of modern American history promised to fight on after a federal judge overturned the murder conviction of a former Black Panther who had served 41 years in solitary confinement.

Herman Wallace, who has terminal liver cancer, left his cell on a stretcher late on Tuesday night after Judge Brian Jackson ruled his 1974 conviction for killing a white prison guard was unconstitutional and ordered his immediate release.

The activist, now 71, is one of the Angola Three who were originally imprisoned for robbery at the notorious Louisiana State Penitentiary, known as Angola Prison because of its site on a former plantation populated by slaves stolen from Africa.

Wallace, with Robert King and Albert Woodfox, say they were framed for the murder at the height of the US civil rights movement because of their links to the Black Panther Party and fight for the rights of black inmates in a prison known as the “bloodiest in America”.

In 1952, 30 prisoners later known as the Heel Street Gang hacked through their own Achilles tendons with razor blades in protest at working conditions. Between 1972 and 1975, the practice of arming inmates as guards resulted in the deaths of 40 prisoners amid a pervasive culture of violence and sex slavery.

Judge Jackson quashed Wallace’s conviction because women were excluded from his jury, violating his right to a fair trial. But campaigners have for decades also pointed out that the all-white jury was drawn from the community in which prison guards lived. Amnesty International detailed in a statement this year that no physical evidence linked the men to the crime, that DNA evidence supporting their defence had been lost, and that the testimony of a key witness was discredited.

Herman Wallace is released from Elayn Hunt Correctional Center (AP) Herman Wallace is released from Elayn Hunt Correctional Center (AP)  

“The case of Herman Wallace is a tragic example of ‘justice’ gone wrong in the USA,” a spokesperson for the human rights organisation said.

King, 70, was released in 2001 after 29 years in solitary confinement, but the campaign now focuses on Albert Woodfox, who still languishes in solitary confinement and is seeking a restraining order against the state of Louisiana for the strip and cavity searches inflicted on him daily.

“Justice delayed is justice betrayed,” King told The Independent. “This is a bittersweet victory. Herman is free from prison but not from torment or the disease wrecking his body. The only consolation is that he won’t die in prison convicted of a murder he was innocent of.”

Louisiana quickly attempted to block Wallace’s release and plans to appeal  against the ruling. “I have the utmost respect for Judge Jackson [but] we respectfully disagree with his decision,” said Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore.

King added: “To continue to do this, to persecute Albert or any other case in which the evidence is so overwhelmingly flawed is a matter of cruelty. It is  a perpetuation of slavery.”

Anita Roddick, the late philanthropist and founder of The Body Shop, was among the most prominent campaigners for the Angola Three, with whom she also became close friends before her death in 2007. She spearheaded the early development of In The Land Of The Free, a documentary released in 2010 and narrated by Samuel L Jackson.

“She would be just jumping up and down with joy today,” said Gordon Roddick, her husband, who has continued the support via the Roddick Foundation with his daughter, Sam. “It was her main focus during the last few years of her life.”

Mr Roddick hopes the release of Wallace, who is thought to have only months to live, will support Woodfox, 66. Sam Roddick said: “This victory puts a stake in the ground. Herman is fighting for social justice. This is about the cruelties of solitary confinement, continuing racism in America and the injustices that still go on within the US penal system.”

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballStriker in talks over £17m move from Manchester United
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
i100
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
boksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Implementation Consultant (VB,C#, SQL, Java, Eclipse, integ

£40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SQL Impl...

SQL Technical Implementation Consultant (Java, BA, Oracle, VBA)

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: SQL Technical ...

Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, Fidessa, Equities)

£85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...

Lead C# Developer (.Net, nHibernate, MVC, SQL) Surrey

£55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead C# Develo...

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor